a glorious beetroot and hazelnut cake

beetroot cake with added nasturtiums!
I have an aversion towards beetroot. I wish I didn't. The humble beetroot has some many good qualities, not least in its sumptuous colour and natural sweetness. I blame this firmly on an early childhood memory of one of my father's contributions to the world of low cuisine - the piccalilli and pickled beetroot sandwich. Since then, the smell of beetroot, even the thought of beetroot has made me feel a little faint, not to say even queasy. But I have vowed that I will learn to love this vegetable which I have much maligned and to do this I have to find interesting ways to cook it, that don't involve pickling!

British cooks have known for centuries of the value of using root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and beetroot in cakes - their qualities leading to moist, sweet cakes, which became greatly valued during the last war, when refined sugar was rationed. I'd love to take credit for this cake but can't. It's an Annie Bell recipe from her Gorgeous Cakes book. And it most certainly lives up to its billing. This is such a pretty cake, flecked with rich pink and iced in a delicate rose colour.

So it was Kavey of Kavey Eats fame's birthday and she had suggested that guests might like to contribute to the sweet buffet. I didn't want to arrive empty-handed but was worried that I wouldn't be able to produce anything interesting enough for a party that would be attended people who not only enjoyed their food but who were likely to be pretty good cooks too. It was a bit daunting. But I plumped for this cake as it seemed relatively easy and my previous attempts at making it have always gone down rather well. Deciding to bring along an iced cake on what turned out to be one of the hottest days this year (yes 30C on the first day of October) might not have been one of my wisest decisions, although I am glad to say I managed to get it there relatively unscathed.

Oh and if case you're wondering, the flowers decorating it are nasturtiums. Not only are they edible, but their colours complemented the sugar stars that I had sprinkled over the top of the cake! 

You will need to line two 20cm cake tins (about 9cm deep) preferably with a removable base. However, I used shallow silicone ones which actually worked quite well, although clearly in my case this became a much shallower cake. I have also made this cake using small loaf tins and you get a very pretty result too.

Skill level: Medium

150g raw beetroots, grated
200ml light vegetable oil
250g golden caster sugar
3 x medium eggs, separated
3 tbsp milk
100g hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped
200g plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
½-1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
edible decorations (sugar flowers, stars, baubles or dolly mixtures)
180g butter
150g icing sugar, sifted
400g cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 190C / Gas Mark 5.
  2. Butter and line the tins with baking parchment and grease the paper with butter.
  3. Place 1 teaspoon of the grated beetroot into small bowl. Cover this with about 2 teaspoons of boiling water, and then set this aside. You will later be using the liquid to colour the icing.
  4. Whisk up the oil with the caster sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Whisk together the egg yolks and milk, then whisk this in to the sugar and oil mixture.
  6. Stir in the grated beetroot with the nuts. Make sure that all of the beetroot and nuts are coated with the cake mix.
  7. Sift together the flour with the baking powder and spices.
  8. Gently fold in the sifted flour mixture ensuring that it is well blended.
  9. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, and then fold into the cake mix in about 3 batches.
  10. Divide between the 2 lined tins. Smooth the surface and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake is beginning to come away from the sides of the tins.
  11. Set aside to cool before removing the baking parchment.
  12. Make the icing by creaming together the butter with the icing sugar.
  13. Add the cream cheese and continue to cream until smooth.
  14. Stir in the vanilla extract with the drained beetroot liquid (that you prepared earlier). Make sure that this is well worked in so that the icing has an even pale pink colour.
  15. Spread about one third of the icing onto one cake and then sandwich the other cake.
  16. Use the rest to coat the top.
  17. Decorate with your preferred decoration and refrigerate for about 1 hour in order to firm up the icing.


Kavey said...

And it was beautiful! I was blown away by the creativity and diversity of what you all made and brought!

Thank you so much for coming and sharing my celebrations of old age!



Meg@thelegaltart said...

Never thought of using beetroot before except on my burger. thanks for sharing!

Shu Han said...

I'm sorry you don't like beetroot, I really really like beetroot (: this sounds gorgeous to me!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Kavey - thank you for having me - it was a lovely day! :)

Meg - Beetroot worked really well, and for my next trip I shall attempt the parsnip!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Shu Han - I am slowly learning to love beetroot - I even had a beautiful beetroot puree in a southern Indian restaurant last night and loved it. So there is hope for me!